Thursday, October 3, 2019

Really Short Reviews: Recent Romance Reads

I love discovering new authors! And 2019 has been a great year for debuts. It's still completely by accident that I wound up with a whole post of debut romance reviews. Have you read any of these yet?

Sarah Smith
Release: October 8, 2019
Goodreads Amazon
ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley
Debut author Sarah Smith nails this fun and sexy multicultural romance where two office foes hammer out their differences to build a love that will last...

Emmie Echavarre is a professional faker. She has to be to survive as one of the few female employees at Nuts & Bolts, a power tool company staffed predominantly by gruff, burly men. From nine to five, Monday through Friday, she's tough as nails--the complete opposite of her easy-going real self.

One thing she doesn't have to fake? Her disdain for coworker Tate Rasmussen. Tate has been hostile to her since the day they met. Emmie's friendly greetings and repeated attempts to get to know him failed to garner anything more than scowls and terse one-word answers. Too bad she can't stop staring at his Thor-like biceps...

When Emmie and Tate are forced to work together on a charity construction project, things get...heated. Emmie's beginning to see that beneath Tate's chiseled exterior lies a soft heart, but it will take more than a few kind words to erase the past and convince her that what they have is real. 

I have mixed feeling about Faker. An enemies to lovers office romance is one of my favorite things. But something about it just felt a little off. Emmie is completely focused on Tate from page one and I kept thinking that I wished she would interact with other characters more. She does actually talk to other people so I think maybe the POV threw me off. It's entirely in first person present tense and that sense of urgency wasn't really necessary here.

Still, there are things I enjoyed about the story. Emmie's background was interesting. She's half-Filipino and grew up in Hawaii, but now lives in Nebraska. I liked how she instinctively understood Tate's introverted ways once she realized what was happening. And Tate's romantic gestures are so cute. But it was obvious from the beginning that she was misinterpreting his attraction as antagonism, which was frustrating.


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Well Met

Jen DeLuca
Release: September 3, 2019
Goodreads Amazon
All's faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author, Jen DeLuca.

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon's family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn't have time for Emily's lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she's in her revealing wench's costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they're portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can't seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek. 

Grumpy hero ✔️
Small town shenanigans ✔️
Enemies to Lovers romance ✔️
Grand Romantic Gestures ✔️
Well Met is a Hallmark Channel movie waiting to happen.

I loved that the main characters started out with so much chemistry in costume and none out. And I relate so hard to Emily. By the end, her insecurities started to feel repetitive but I still really enjoyed this Ren Faire Rom Com.


2019 Library Love Challenge
Library Love Challenge: Book 26/24

Bringing Down the Duke

(A League of Extraordinary Women #1)
Evie Dunmore
Release: September 3, 2019
Goodreads Amazon
A stunning debut for author Evie Dunmore and her Oxford Rebels, in which a fiercely independent vicar's daughter takes on a duke in a fiery love story that threatens to upend the British social order.

England, 1879. Annabelle Archer, the brilliant but destitute daughter of a country vicar, has earned herself a place among the first cohort of female students at the renowned University of Oxford. In return for her scholarship, she must support the rising women's suffrage movement. Her charge: recruit men of influence to champion their cause. Her target: Sebastian Devereux, the cold and calculating Duke of Montgomery who steers Britain's politics at the Queen's command. Her challenge: not to give in to the powerful attraction she can't deny for the man who opposes everything she stands for.

Sebastian is appalled to find a suffragist squad has infiltrated his ducal home, but the real threat is his impossible feelings for green-eyed beauty Annabelle. He is looking for a wife of equal standing to secure the legacy he has worked so hard to rebuild, not an outspoken commoner who could never be his duchess. But he wouldn't be the greatest strategist of the Kingdom if he couldn't claim this alluring bluestocking without the promise of a ring...or could he?

Locked in a battle with rising passion and a will matching her own, Annabelle will learn just what it takes to topple a duke....

I've just realized that Dukes are the Historical Romance equivalent of Billionaires. (Hopefully, that's because I just started reading Historicals and not because my comparative literature muscles have atrophied.) The Victorian setting magnifies the obstacles presented by the characters' class differences. And I loved the resulting push/pull between Annabelle and Sebastian.

But what's really fascinating about Bringing Down the Duke is the politics. Queen Victoria and Prime Minister Disraeli actually appear on the page, but the issues in the story feel surprisingly timely. I could almost picture the suffragists in pink pussy hats. That Annabelle and Sebastian were able to come together from opposite sides of that battle was so powerful.

I can't even express how much I loved this book! Bringing Down the Duke is sure to be on my Best of 2019 list!

4.5  stars

Romanceopoly: Women’s Avenue - Women’s Fiction

2019 Library Love Challenge
Library Love Challenge: Book 25/24

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